Brooklyn, 1952

Shades kept light at bay, their crocheted tassels hung

in meager sun, behind draped inner curtains and darker

patterned brocade. The old apartment, a cave, a lair.

Armchairs rested on their haunches, moody under

fancy antimacassars, ancients huddled on the oriental rug.

In the kitchen, smoke and words swirled. Backed into the corner

the coal hod sat beside the stove. The white lip of the kitchen

sink curled, a place they rested elbows, leaned, pondered

the unfairness of the world. The boy they sent off

to the basement ­­ out the wide front doors, then down

the concrete steps. He lugged the trash into shadows

of boogeymen, slanted eyes of rats, the sound

of threats and laughter from above, older boys who

flicked the wheels of lighters, coughed and spat.

The girl crouched beneath the table amid sensible shoes,

one finger traced the leaves on green linoleum,

waited for someone to lift the scissors, snip the cord

tied around the white box, take up the knife and slice.

On good days, a carriage nestled beside the curved entryway,

a great­aunt on the first floor rested a pair of flattened

forearms on the windowsill, watched the baby sleep.

The mother knelt in the bathroom, breasts pressed

against the tub, held the board, slapped heavy sheets,

scrubbed, short wet hairs clinging to her neck.


Published in:

Blast Furnace, Vol. 5, Issue 2